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07/10/2015 / Graham Lowe

GRADE A OFFICE SPACE NEEDS GRADE A LIFE SAFETY SYSTEMS

We’ve written previously about how no two new buildings are the same. Variations in building fabric, combined with differences in interior layout and intended use all have to be taken into account by designers to ensure a new development offers optimum fire safety for future occupants.

Once built though, a property’s life safety requirements don’t remain static – they evolve, as extensions are added, the internal layout changes, or as it is used for different functions. The people installing and maintaining the building’s fire safety and emergency lighting systems need to keep up-to-speed with these changes and respond to them to make sure they remain compliant with regulations and, above all, fit for purpose.

Nevertheless, despite the importance of ensuring that life safety equipment is suitable for a building’s needs, our latest research has revealed that more than half of European businesses are failing to adjust life safety systems in accordance with changes in the use of their space. The study also found that 55 per cent of installers feel their customers are more concerned with initial expenditure than Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), while a fifth said they think building managers view maintenance of life safety systems as an unnecessary expense.

With demand for Grade A office space outstripping supply in many major cities, it is understandable that organisations are working with their existing space by investing in fit outs and refurbishments to accommodate their evolving needs. However, fire safety solutions are installed with the current use of space in mind so to disregard this when altering layout or function is a potentially fatal oversight – risking the health and safety of building occupants.

So what do building owners need to take into account when renovating their properties to ensure their fire safety and emergency lighting equipment remains up to code? Here are our top tips:

  • Make sure life safety system log book records are up to date – each maintenance visit must be logged and any findings noted in the log book – which must be kept near the building’s life safety systems’ control panels.
  • Check the fire safety equipment complies with the latest legislation for the building’s intended use – ask your installation/maintenance company for guidance here, or approach the manufacturer of the equipment directly, all equipment should be third party approved and be suitable for the environment.
  • Make sure the emergency lighting offers the right lux levels for the needs of the development – ask your lighting designer/installer for advice on the performance of your emergency lighting system, or again, approach the manufacturer directly for access to photometric data. Escape routes, changes in floor level and safety equipment locations all need specific light levels under BS5266.
  • Check the building’s emergency exits are clear and that the appropriate exit signage is in place for the building’s intended use – this should be done on a regular basis as unannounced spot checks by Fire Safety Enforcement Officers and the Health & Safety Executive can result in hefty fines.
  • Ensure fire detectors are clean and emergency lighting batteries are fully charged – your life safety systems maintenance provider should be able to demonstrate that they have cleaned your fire detection equipment in accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations. Emergency lighting systems that rely on battery back-up should be kept fully charged to be able to provide the minimum 3 hour illumination in the event of a power outage, as recommended in BS5266.

With European GDP set to rise by 1.7 per cent this year alone, it’s likely that many businesses will be forced to continue to adapt their existing workspace, rather than move to new premises. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t be to the detriment of overall safety. Life safety industry members need to raise awareness of the issues around upgrading fire safety and emergency lighting equipment in line with a building’s changing needs, and support businesses in regularly reviewing the status of their technology.

This is something Hochiki Europe has been doing for many years. As standard, all product training provided to our customers’ engineers is completely free of charge, ensuring our products are always installed to the highest degrees of skill and safety out in the field.

Taking advantage of such support, building owners can be confident their fire safety and emergency lighting equipment is fit for purpose, whatever use the premises are put to, ensuring compliance with legislation and upholding the safety and wellbeing of occupants.

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